February 25, 2013

South Haven's street project for Fall 2013

Image credit: Google Maps street view
The city of South Haven will be tackling a long-overdue rehab project for the main thoroughfare through downtown this fall.  The top priority is the upgrade of the current water service, which is undersized and currently 75 years old.  Anyone who has walked across Phoenix Street downtown knows that the pavement is uneven (as if there have been millions of cars going through town creating a "two-track" feel!).  Additionally, the sewer drains and storm water drains will be upgraded.  With a matching grant to help fund the $2.3 million pricetag, the project will begin in the fall and likely wrap up by the following spring.

As with any large construction, there are mixed feelings from the downtown merchants and residents.  One of the more controversial aspects of the project is the demolition of the "welcome island" positioned between Props and the Blueberry Store.  The crosswalk is useful and the welcome sign an icon part of downtown - that is undisputed.  The new plan calls for the construction of a new welcome sign and crosswalk further to the east - positioned between City Hall and the little park that is the gateway to the Huron Street Pavilion.  The pavilion hosts the farmer's market from May through October and the ice rink during the winter.

Image credit:  Google Satellite maps
The interesting twist to the removal of the previous crosswalk and welcome island?  The intention of expanding the sidewalks to allow sidewalk dining areas - not additional parking.  The city press release specifically reads "These pedestrian spaces will be located in areas which would otherwise be used for automotive purposes."  Two restaurants will directly benefit from the opportunity to have outside seating by summer of 2014 - reference the satellite image at right.  Downtown merchants are bemoaning the loss of parking directly on Phoenix Street, as there never seems to be enough during those peak summer days.

The project also includes funds for new street furniture, improved access to City Hall with a better accessible ramp, an urban rain garden, relocation the memorials on the front lawn, creating more gathering spaces on the front lawn of City Hall, and public WiFi downtown specifically targeting those enlarged pedestrian spaces.

We're excited to see the new configuration and appearance of the downtown area.  Hopefully the short term hassle of tearing up the main street in downtown will be well tolerated by our fall, winter and spring visitors for the ultimate improvement of South Haven's downtown experience.  This fall we will post updates when the project begins!

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